Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and of the spinal cord. Viral meningitis is the most common, but it can also be contracted, as bacterial meningitis, which is the most dangerous, or fungal, although fungal meningitis is rare. Most common in babies and young children, adults can also suffer from this contagious disease. Definite symptoms include fever and headache. You may not experience every symptom, but it comes on very quickly and they can be life-threatening, so please see a doctor as soon as you can.

Fever and Flu Symptoms

Meningitis can be mistaken for the flu as it carries all the same symptoms. Fever, drowsiness, a cough, and a running nose are all contributors to the flu, but if they are all present and in conjunction with 4 of the other meningitis symptoms, then it is time to call the doctor immediately. Other flu symptoms include the chills, even when the room is warm, muscle and body aches, headaches, a sore throat and swollen glands. For adults, a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 F) is high, in children it is from 37.5C (99.5F) and above.




As the bacterial poison is released into the bloodstream (septicemia), blood vessels can be damaged and therefore, cause a rash on the skin to appear. At first, this may be quite faint and may seem like bruising or simply irritated skin, taking the form of a light prickle of spots over the skin. As it progresses, the rash, or spots, can darken and become enlarged as a reaction to bleeding under the skin. They can be pink, red or a blue-purple color. This meningitis rash can appear anywhere on the body, but not everyone with meningitis will develop the rash. Be sure to check light skin areas like inside the mouth, the palms, and eyelids.

A hand feeling a rash on arm


A Severe Headache

A headache caused by the meningitis virus is different to your normal common headache. The infected lining of the brain becomes incredibly inflamed from the virus, which results in the brain becoming inflamed. This is an extremely painful experience. Rather than ‘a spot headache’ where the pain is localized behind the eye or in a particular area of the head, headaches from meningitis are all-encompassing around the skull and can make it very hard to function normally, as the pain is too great. This alone is cause to see your doctor, but you should also be aware if this kind of a headache is paired with other meningitis symptoms.

A man with a headache


Neck Stiffness and an Arched Spine

Pain in the back of the neck and a general feeling of being stiff is a common symptom of meningitis. When the lining of the spinal cord becomes infected, it is inflamed and stretched and any movement can be painful. Especially looking down. In children, this stiffness can lead to the neck and spine to become rigid. The child or infant will tend to arch over backward. This is called an abnormal arch, or opisthotonos, and should be taken very seriously if your child has this symptom along with fever.

A man having pain in his neck


Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea is not a pleasant feeling, and the majority of the population will have experienced it in their lifetime. Specifically, it is the urge to Vomit. Nausea is not exactly painful, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. You may feel the sensation in your stomach or upper abdomen, around your back and your throat. Often you will prepare to throw up, but it never eventuates. Nausea can come and go, but it does also lead to vomiting. Vomiting is an involuntary release, which empties the contents of the stomach, through the mouth.




People suffering from disorientation can go from slight confusion to something a bit more serious such as not knowing who they are, the time or date, or where they are. It is classified as an altered mental state, which confuses the individual into a state of delirium. It can cause delusions or even hallucinations, seeing and hearing things that aren’t there, and being agitated and restless. When a person is alone and experiences disorientation they may be found wandering around, confused, without their usual level of clarity.




Drowsiness is connected to many diseases; your body is working overtime, so naturally, you would have the feeling of tiredness and fatigue. Within the Symptoms of drowsiness, you may feel your eyelids drooping and head dropping, and you can ‘nod off’ quite quickly and easily just with your head resting in your hand at your desk or table. You will yawn frequently and also have blurry eyes or vision. You will feel lethargic and weak and often moody as a result of not feeling as though you are getting enough sleep.

A child who fell asleep while watching TV holding the remote control


Sensitivity to Bright Lights

Being sensitive to bright light is called photophobia, or heliophobia. It is an abnormal intolerance to light or the perception of light. Sufferers will experience pain or discomfort in the eyes when looking into a light, or even just the presence of light. When Meningitis causes this condition, it comes from a nervous system problem, not an eye problem, in conjunction with neurological inflammation. This symptom is often hard to notice in children. Especially if they are too young to communicate how or what they are feeling.

A child covering her eyes


Lack of Appetite

Many things in life will cause a lack of appetite. But a bacteria or a virus in the body are a certain factor to a loss of appetite. Depending on how long you experience no desire to eat can result in weight loss. And, of course, a lack of energy, as you are no longer fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs to survive. As well as no desire to eat, if you do make yourself ingest something, you may have trouble swallowing or following through with the intake. As the thought and action of eating are no longer appealing.



Cold Hands and Feet

A symptom of meningitis can be cold extremities like hand and feet. Sepsis can occur both with and without the meningitis virus. But when it does, you need to be aware of the symptoms. Cold hands and feet usually go with the presence of the meningitis rash, muscle, and joint pain, plus a feeling of being confused or delirious.



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